Young Justice: Independence Day

The gang getting ready to walk into JL "headquarters"

Young Justice follows a team of young superheroes, and in the first episode we meet most of the members: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Speedy and Superboy. In “Independence Day,” the “sidekicks” are excited about finally taking their first steps towards Justice League membership, but get frustrated when their partners only give them a tour of the fake HQ–Speedy gets so angry that he walks out on Green Arrow! In rebellion, the boys break into the mysterious genetics lab Cadmus and find a lot of strange stuff–including “Project Kr.”

Young Justice is a high-quality animation series, and it is impressive from every angle. Justice isn’t dark like Batman: The Animated Series, nor campy like Brave and the Bold, but instead strikes an almost perfect balance between the two. In the same way, kids will enjoy watching teenage superheroes save the day, but the stories are complex and the villains serious enough so that adult fans will get hooked too.

Plus, YJ focuses on teenage superheroes, but it ‘s still an all-inclusive DC Universe series. Not only are the Young Justice team members all across the board, but we also have “grown up” heroes who will be mentoring and training them (including Red Tornado and Black Canary). There’s no reason why different heroes can’t guest-star for different missions; it’s very refreshing after so many  Batman and Superman-centered shows and films.

YJ’s animation is especially impressive. There is a definite influence by anime, much like Teen Titans, but without those silly chibi moments. The action scenes were very fluid and choreographed; each hero has his/her own style and you can see the seeds of an effective team. I especially like how Aqualad looks, and the way he harnesses water through his arms is super cool.

Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin sneaking into Cadmus

Because so many coming-of-age shows are out there, this first episode could have felt a little cliché; the teenagers rebel against their parental figures to prove themselves. But the show is written in such a way that, because these kids are also superheroes, it felt different enough that I wasn’t bored by it. And they’re different in a lot of other ways, too: Aqualad’s from Atlantis, Dick is an orphan, Miss Martian’s from space and Superboy is a clone from Cadmus. This won’t be your everyday adolescent show.

No Artemis in sight, and in fact there are barely any girls and women in the two-parter. Miss Martian drops in at the very end, and we see some Leaguers like Black Canary, Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl, but all of them are silent for the most part. While hopefully things will become more even in later episodes, the pilot felt marketed towards boys, unfair to say the least.

The voice actors really breathe life into these characters, and along with the excellent animation, the crew really put a lot of thought into the voice casting as well. It’s great to hear Bruce Greenwood reprise his gravelly-voiced role as Batman from Under the Red Hood, and Nolan North returns as Superman. Phil LaMarr is wonderful as always, this time he’s Aquaman, and I’d love to see him reprise his role as GL in a future episode. Jesse McCartney was a surprising choice for Robin, but he portrays the Boy Wonder with great cynicism and more than a little haughtiness. Jason Spisak is also great as Kid Flash, and his one-liners add a lot of levity to the story.

Young Justice is a smart, fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable show for all audiences, regardless of age or comic book devotion. DC never fails to impress when it comes to excellent animated series, and YJ is no exception.

Young Justice’s new episodes premiere Friday nights on Cartoon Network!

All images thanks to The Captain’s JLA Blog.

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